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 Holiday Central > Chanukah > The Story of Chanukah > The Revolt Timeline
The Chanukah Revolt: Timeline
By: Rivka C. Berman, Contributor
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168 BCE - Antiochus’s takeover of Jerusalem turns obnoxious. On the 15th of Kislev, the third month of the Hebrew year, an idol, some say it was the uber-god Zeus, was forced atop the Holy Temple’s altar.

167 BCE - Greek forces in Modi’in, a village about 40 km from Jerusalem, set up an altar for idol worship in the middle of town and demanded a pig sacrifice from the local Jews. The Greeks were not prepared for the anger of Mattithias, a kohen-priest from Jerusalem, who fled the decadence of the big city to live in Modi’in.

A local Hellenist Jew volunteered for the abominable rite, signaling he was lockstep with Greek culture even when it called for deeds abhorrent to Jewish values. The aged Mattithias, like Pinchas of Numbers 24, killed the traitor and the offending soldiers. Knowing his deed would sure be avenged, Mattithias fled to the hills. Mattithias’ five sons, passionate for Judaism, joined in his flight, and together, sheltered by the mountainous terrain, plotted the uprising.

The name Maccabbees was attached to the father and sons group, according to some versions of the story, as a result of Mattithias declaration of “Mi Camocha B’Alim Hashem” Who is like You, God? The phrase’s acronym spells out the word “Maccabee.” With a rallying cry of “Me l’Hashem aylai,” Whoever is for God, come with me! - Mattithias gathered a following of fellow Jews ready to fight for religious freedom.

166 BCE - A ragtag bunch of Jewish warriors, mostly farmers, headed by Mattithias’ sons Judah, Simon, Elazar, Yochanon, and Jonathan, battle Syrian-Greek General Apollonius and win. This is an incredible victory is just a beginning.

165 BCE - The fighting continues. Around this time, Mattithias dies. Judah Maccabeus takes over the family’s quest. His name, Maccabeus, is similar to the Hebrew word for “hammer” and may be a reference to Judah’s hammer shaped-head or his willingness to strike out like a hammer.

General Judah leads 4,000 poorly trained and poorly armed Jews to victory against 47,000 battle-wise Greek troops. Even if the Maccabees’ use of guerilla warfare tactics are factored, the Jewish victory is nothing short of miraculous.

On the 25th of Kislev, the date the modern Chanukah celebration begins, the victorious Maccabees reclaim the Temple Mount and the Temple. They find the glorious edifice in shambles. Walls have been destroyed. Once-proud altars and Temple ware have been defaced and used for profane purposes. Idols and their foreign, pagan trimmings litter the courtyard. Purifying the Temple to its original state is a demanding but proud task. Working carefully and quickly, the Temple is soon ready for rededication – except for one thing – the Menorah, candelabrum, must be lit.


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